Listen to the playlist now
- Aged rum
- orange curaçao
- lime juice
- rich simple syrup
- orgeat syrup
This quote from Seks Bomba’s site says it all. “This is the perfect background music for a house party.”
Tiki music, or exotica, began in the 1950s with the experimental jazz-fusion of artists like Les Baxter, Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman. After a two-week gig at Don the Beachcomber in Honolulu, Denny left Los Angeles for a life in Hawaii. Already fascinated by Latin rhythms and a collector of ethnic instruments, he was soon surrounded by the native sounds of the islands. His breakout album, Exotica, replaced traditional strings with bird calls and a vibraphone. The album hit Billboard’s #1 spot and a genre was born.
Exotica can be surfer happy or dark and mysterious. It takes you to the islands and jungles of your dreams on Latin rhythms, bongos and sticks, bird calls, animal shrieks and gutteral growls. California’s beautiful set flocked to Trader Vic’s and Don the Beachcomber to be seen sipping flaming Scorpion Bowls. The music they heard seeped into Hollywood’s movies and television shows. You may not know the songs on this list, but you will somehow recognize them.
Now a new generation of musicians, often classically-trained, are embracing exotica and building cult followings. Los Straitjackets out of Nashville. Boston’s Seks Bomba. Clouseaux, a Houston band that bills itself as playing “in full Ricky Ricardo mode.” Southern Culture On The Skids, a Chapel Hill alt/experimental/surf rock band. And others that just feel right in the mix like 311 and Weezer, because the only rule of tiki is to have fun.
More About the Music
To be honest, a couple of weeks ago I had no idea what tiki music was. What I did have were a few song recommendations from bartenders to get me started. Those songs led to some amazing bloggers who are SERIOUSLY into tiki. And you know what? Tiki music is fun. The classic tracks are both familiar and exotic, and more layered than you expect. Listening to this music feels like a stroll through Disney World, or lazy afternoons with Gilligan, Maxwell Smart and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (‘60s soundtracks, as it turns out, have more than a little tiki in them.) I dare you to shake up a cool fruity drink, stick an umbrella in it, and listen along without leaving your cares behind. Which after all is the whole point.